Loving parents will do anything to protect their children. Unfortunately, many of them are unaware of the risk to their kids’ identities.
But parents can take steps to protect against identity theft. They can follow the tips below and seek out expert fraud services like ours through their insurance carrier, bank, credit union or employer.
Identity fraud is a serious risk for children. The Federal Trade Commission reports that victims aged 19 and younger accounted for 8 percent of all identity theft complaints in 2010, up from 7 percent the previous year.
In a recent study of 42,000 children, Carnegie Mellon found that 10.2 percent of their Social Security numbers had been misused—more than 50 times the rate for the adults studied.
By stealing children’s Social Security numbers, thieves can hijack their victims’ spotless credit histories and easily open lines of credit.
Stolen numbers also are used to obtain false IDs for illegal immigrants.
By focusing on children, thieves also can bank on escaping detection for years, since parents and credit bureaus aren’t watching for this crime.
For minor identity fraud victims, the future can be painful if their credit records go unrepaired until the victims reach adulthood. The damage could prevent them from obtaining student loans, jobs and housing.
Protect your kids with these 5 tips from Identity Theft 911:
- Don’t carry around a child’s Social Security card. This increases the risk of losing the card, which is the most common way identity thieves obtain a child’s information.
- Be discriminating when asked for a child’s personal information. If it has to be provided, ask how it will be stored. If the information will not be retained, inquire how any record of it will be destroyed or returned.
- Cross-shred documents with personal identifying information before disposing of them.
- Don’t post children’s pictures online. Most digital cameras have geocoding features that embed within images the location where pictures were taken. This gives identity thieves information they can use to steal children’s identities.
- Don’t give children their Social Security numbers until they understand how and why to protect the numbers.
As your children get older, be sure to teach them about the risks of social networking. Teach them to create strong passwords, avoid accepting friend requests from strangers and be careful when clicking on links or taking quizzes.
Parents can check their children’s credit reports annually for suspicious activity. For children 13 and older, credit reports are available online at annualcreditreport.com. For younger children, credit report requests must be filed with the FTC in writing. More information is available here.
An open credit line is a strong indication that a child has been victimized.
A child who is being contacted by marketers, debt collectors or credit card issuers also likely has been victimized.
If you think your child’s identity has been stolen, contact your insurer or bank, which might provide LifeStages Identity Management Services for Children from Identity Theft 911. Or contact us directly.
One of our fraud specialists will guide you and provide practical support until your child’s credit record is restored. The specialist also will help you pursue criminal and civil legal action against the identity thief.Matt Cullina, Chief Executive Officer, Identity Theft 911 Matt has 15 years of insurance industry management, claims and product development experience. He spearheaded MetLife Auto & Home Insurance Co.’s personal product development initiatives, managed complex claims litigation and served as a corporate witness for Travelers Insurance and the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.